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John Leguizamo never ceases to be annoying

(this stupid post is refusing to format properly. excuse the wall of text!)

It’s been a couple of weeks since padre and I watched a movie, and I was hoping to start up the routine again with something like The Warriors. That plan couldn’t go ahead when my Xbox refused to allow FTP transfers (of course the DVD is like, what, £3? an easily remedied problem if it weren’t too late to bother going out and picking it up), so we just rummaged through DVDs for stuff that was under two hours, and Titan A.E. looked interesting. At least, the box made it look interesting. They really went out of their way to avoid emphasising it’s a 2D animation by Don Bluth!

So Earth is blown the fuck up by a race of energy beings who are evil. Why? Because. The kid’s father (voiced by Ron Perlman!) began work on a project that was basically to ensure mankind still had planet to call theirs, and the kid (voiced unenthusiastically by Matt Damon) knows the directions to it. Thus he, a generic love interest, a gruff military dude and three obnoxious aliens set about trying to find it. Vivid demonstrations of the CGI budget and painfully uninteresting antics ensue!

Yeah, sorry, but I was bored out of my wits during the film. I was aware it was an animated film, but I wasn’t aware Don Bluth was behind it. I respect the man for his talent, but I’m afraid An American Tail was his only flick that still stands out to me (though considering the only other movie of his I’d seen before was A Troll In Central Park, I clearly haven’t seen his better works), plus his trademark abundantly adorable style just gets a bit tiresome after a while. I don’t think it helped that the movie just didn’t know what audience it was aiming for – the earth being blown to freakin’ smithereens with lots of ships full of passengers being seen demolished in the shockwave is not exactly how one imagines a children’s film starting off, but we’re then treated to lots of zany alien characters with googly eyes, obnoxious voices and sarcastic comments.

I was almost hoping that it would aim for a slightly more mature vibe, but if there was one I just didn’t feel it. Mature isn’t just looking dark and having a few deaths, it’s about having interesting characters, a compelling plot and actually giving me a reason to keep watching and not just turn it off in favour of watching some Beast Wars. I didn’t like any of the characters either because they were boring or because they were grating to listen to, and the only mildly appealing character was the alien kangaroo girl, and only because she actually demonstrated she could kick ass and didn’t bludgeon us over the head with how wacky and zany she was. The humans’ constant complaints about living with aliens and having to adapt to their lifestyle didn’t come across as a yearning for a less foreign home to live in, but more them being pissy that they were now the universe’s equivalent of a minority (also it’s not until just before the third act that you see anyone who isn’t a whitey. Great representation of our kind, fellas! Also I won’t believe you if you try to convince me Drew Barrymore’s cardboard cutout of a character is meant to be asian).

Dad and I were constantly asking each other our opinions so far, and I bluntly admitted I wasn’t impressed. The characters didn’t interest me, the humour was obnoxious, but he basically took the words out of my mouth by saying the story was crap. Yeah, it was. I guess the basic concept isn’t bad, but I’m sorry, the entire story just did not appeal to me one bit. Its pacing was all over the place and felt more like several episodes of a Saturday morning cartoon spliced together; it barely even felt like the story bothered even trying to hide how it was going through the motions. The military dude just seems to show up at the beginning and wastes no time in saying “hello let me drive the plot for you” by making the ridiculous life-or-death save-the-world offer. It just seemed to come out of nowhere, and rather than the character reacting to how out-of-the-blue it comes, he just seems to follow along with the traditional “I’m a nobody why would I want to do that” spiel. There’s no real breather space to let the story sink in or actually sound good for a few seconds, it just seems to cut to all kinds of locations and scenarios that bear little to no significance on the story. I’m still trying to figure out why whats-her-face was jettisoned to the marketplace and what bearing it had on the story outside of padding. I will commend it for giving the film’s one good joke: “An intelligent guard. Didn’t see that one coming.”

The film does pick up a little in its last act, but even its very minor improvement couldn’t save the film. And as an animation, it left something to be desired. I won’t deny it’s certainly better than your standard animation, but it struggles to come across as exciting or appealing, and the gimmick of having 2D characters in 3D environments just doesn’t mesh too well (though, again, it’s certainly been done worse). It doesn’t help that the 3D just isn’t that consistent – quite often the framerate is low and choppy, like a computer is chugging on trying to process it, while other times it’s silky smooth. There are some instances where you have a smooth-running spaceship drift across a jittery animated backdrop, which does wonders for ruining any sense of being immersed I might’ve been feeling. I can’t remember any discussion about the movie when it was new so I’ve no idea if people were actually impressed by it or not, but I admit it does look like something that could be easily replicated on a modern cartoon show with a moderate budget.

I will say, though, some of the backdrops are genuinely beautiful. I’m not exaggerating! As much as the film bored and annoyed me and I vocally protested when the film was just showing off their special effects to fill time (nope, sorry, the whole space stingray thing was just a waste of time), some scenes and images really were wonders to look at. The planet of hydrogen trees, although much of it consisted simply of glowing orbs, the long distance shots looked absolutely fabulous. The ice ring sequence was actually an alright action scene, not to mention it was some of the best CGI in the whole film, and a lot of the one-off painted scenes (New Bangkok and so on) looked fantastic, almost reminding me of Heavy Metal in the amount of detail layered onto them. It’s a pity the film wasn’t just an animated space documentary, in which case we could’ve had some great scenery shots.

In a way it’s neat to finally see it, but, sorry, I thought it stunk. It takes a lot for me to actually say a movie is bad, especially when it’s not even that long, but I was literally counting the minutes until it was over. TVtropes tells me that there were some books of the movie which both adapt and expand the story, which I guess would be worth checking out if I felt like bludgeoning myself to death with one, but it’s almost sad seeing how enthusiastic the people there are about the movie, citing so many scenes as being “crowning moments of awesome” in their lingo that I personally thought were a bit shit. I mean, the creation of New Earth should have been an event worthy of the legitimate usage of the term “epic,” but instead came off as a bit rushed. Also crowning music of awesome? I thought the music was really, really downplayed the whole time.

I should’ve just stuck with The Warriors.